Waiting Time

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Whether waiting time is compensable depends on the particular factual circumstances.[1] The FLSA requires compensation for all time during which employees are required to wait while on duty even if allowed to leave the job site. The FLSA requires compensation because these waiting periods are of such short duration that the employees cannot use them for their own benefit. Employees who wait before starting their duties because they arrived at the place of employment earlier than the required time are not entitled to be paid for the waiting time. However, if an employee reports at the required time and then waits because there is no work to start on, the waiting time is compensable work time. Waiting by an employee who has been relieved from duty need not be counted as hours worked, if:

  1. The employee is completely relieved from duty and allowed to leave his or her job; or
  2. The employee is told he or she is relieved until a definite specified time; or
  3. The relief period is long enough for the employee to use the time as he or she sees fit depending upon the circumstances in each case.

Whether waiting time is time worked under the FLSA depends upon the particular circumstances. A stenographer who reads a book while waiting for dictation, firefighters who watch television while waiting for alarms and police officers who are required to wait at home to be summoned to court are all working during their periods of inactivity. Generally, periods during which an employee is completely relieved from duty and which are long enough to enable the employee to use the time effectively for his or her own purposes are not hours worked. 

[1]  See Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U. S. 134, 65 S. Ct. 161 (1944).